For many travelers photography plays a large part in the travel experience, but even with top of the line photography equipment and post processing software there’s no guarantee you’ll come home with the “beauty shot(s)” you were hoping for. Timing, lighting, bad weather, crowds and impatient families all factor in.
I’m no professional, but I am an avid photographer and have spent years happily snapping at every opportunity. This makes me an expert, right? Obviously not, but I’ve learned a lot from the photography classes and tours I’ve taken and I’ve happily received advice and tips from fellow travel bloggers, professional photographers, and other snap happy friends.
Speaking of friends I’ve asked some of them for their best tips on how they get THE shot. Whether you’re in front of or behind the camera, into selfies, landscapes or family pics here (in their own words) are some of their (and my) hints for bringing home your “beauty” shot.
No photo is worth serious injury, or your life. Stories of travelers and selfie takers losing their lives in the pursuit getting that perfect shot are becoming more and more frequent. Make sure you’re wearing appropriate attire for your surroundings, stay on marked pathways, and if it feels unsafe, it probably is.
Located just outside Page, Arizona, Horseshoe Bend is one of the most photographed spots on the Colorado River. I really wanted to see it, but I wasn’t willing to walk to the edge of a 1000 foot drop to get the big picture. I literally crawled to get to this point and still didn’t get everything into the frame.
Be Aware of your Surroundings
Clare Thomson, Suitcases and Sandcastles
Clare is the creator of Suitcases and Sandcastles, a brilliant travel website, which focuses on making travel and culture more fun by slowing down and taking the time to really experience a place.
Clare’s pursuit of the perfect photo hasn’t always gone to plan. She says clumsiness and lack of sensible shoes mean she shouldn’t even be trusted with a camera, and admits to getting carried away by the beauty of a place. I’m a big fan of her work and hope she gets safely carried away more often!
This is the tiny Mediterranean Island of Gozo. The rock formations in front of me are extraordinary and I scramble down to the rocks only to discover that I can barely walk across this jagged surface in my flip-flops.
Clutching my camera to my chest like a baby, I stumble on. I’m used to cuts and scratches but I’m so frightened of damaging the camera that I end up bum shuffling across the rocks, much to the amusement of all the sensible tourists in trainers.
- Getting that perfect shot takes time and patience. Be prepared to wait ages for the right light or for the crowds to disappear.
- Try each shot from lots of different angles.
- Bring sensible footwear and plenty of plasters (bandages).
- Carry your camera in a padded bag.
- Make sure that your travel companions have got something else to do while you take lots of photos.
Visit the Suitcases and Sandcastles blog and Instagram profile for more of Clare’s beautiful photography.
Beverly Friedman Photography
Beverly Friedman has traveled and photographed the world. She focuses mainly on landscapes and wildlife, and in the interest of full disclosure, also happens to be my aunt. She has definitely succeeded in getting The Shot!
This first photo is on the Isle of Skye; a place called the Fairy Glen. The stones really gave the scene an eerie or magical effect. It’s a simple composition that reflects the place.
- Simplify, simplify, simplify. Including too much in the photo detracts from its effect.
- Remember to check the edges for distracting elements.
The second photo was taken at Machu Picchu. Here, I wanted to show the perspective of the size of the monument compared to the size of the people, therefore, the people are small. Notice that the image shows all of the figures.
- Remember to avoid cutting off the feet and/or bottom of the legs. Head only or head and shoulders only are also okay.
- When photographing people, the simplify rule still applies. If the emphasis is on the people, zoom in.
Visit Beverly’s website and Instagram profile to see more of her incredible photos.
Katy Untold Morsels
Katy is a travel blogger, photographer and the mastermind behind Untold Morsels, a very successful website, which focuses on food, wine, history, art and design. In her own words, “For me, travel is not just about visiting a destination. I am always looking for experiences and details that ensure each trip is forever etched in my memory.”
This gorgeous photo of Castel Sant’Angelo was the final result out of 100 photos. Katy has two favorite methods for getting a shot she is happy with:
- The first is to patiently wait until people move out of the way or clouds float away in the sky. By that stage I have framed my shot and know the light.
- The other, more common method, is deployed often due to having to control two 5 year olds. On those occasions I put the setting on burst or multi shot mode and pray one is going to turn out ok. Then of course I have to spend hours editing. But it’s worth it!
Paul and Mark Anywhere we Roam
Anywhere We Roam is a travel blog documenting the fabulous adventures of Paul and Mark. Their desire to know the world and their ability to document and share their travels in a friendly and inviting manner is truly inspiring.
Photographing people can be a sensitive issue. In some countries there is no expectation of privacy in a public place, whereas in others, it’s illegal to photograph people. Some cultures frown upon it for religious reasons and in some cases it’s just plain rude.
- Rather than covertly sneaking a snap of someone without them knowing, the best way to photograph people is to ask them. I’ve rarely had anyone say they didn’t want their photo taken. With their consent, I have time to set up the shot properly to make sure it works.
The only problem with this strategy: they instinctively start posing; ruining the unforced moment I was hoping to create.
- Take a bit more time and help them relax by asking some questions. While they’re telling me their name, occupation, family history, I can snap a few shots in-between responses and create a much more natural moment.
Cappadocia in Turkey is a dream location for photographers and Instagram aficionados. I caught these two in a romantic moment just inside the corner of the frame.
- Try to shoot into the sun for maximum warm glow, making sure there is enough light on the subject so they’re not obscured by shadow. In this case it didn’t matter because they were only a small part of the overall shot.
The charming village of Moustiers Sainte Marie in Provence is said to be one of the most beautiful in France. It’s built on terraces about 100 metres up a limestone cliff.
- Capturing a shot that includes the sun is an easy way to add some extra atmosphere to your photo. But, you want the sun slightly obstructed to get that nice flare effect.
- Wait for the sun to dip partially below the horizon or position yourself so it’s just poking around the side of a tree or a wall. That way, you’ll get nice golden rays without overexposing too much of the frame.
Melissa’s Secrets To A Good Selfie
We can’t have a post about travel photography without including the Selfie. Lucky for you my friend and fellow travel junkie, Melissa, loves to take selfies and she is truly the master. I’ve coaxed her into sharing some of her selfie secrets.
Ah, selfies. Love ’em or hate ’em, they’re here to stay and there’s absolutely no good reason why you can’t look your absolute best just because you’re taking the photo.
A good selfie starts with self-awareness. Do you have a good side? Do you think you look more attractive posed a certain way? You’re probably right! When I take a selfie or a picture with anyone else, I elbow my way to the left-hand side of the group because I feel my left-hand side looks better than my right. Try it. Take a photo of both sides of your face and figure out which one you like best. Go ahead. I’ll wait.
Everyone looks better when photographed from up high. A high angle will take 10 years and 5 pounds away. Take a selfie with your camera at arms length first at face level and again from as high as you can get your arms, angled downward. You didn’t know you had those cheekbones, did you? Almost nobody looks good when you take a selfie from below (hello, multiple chins)!
Make sure the person with the longest arms takes the photo, angled from above. My darling husband has arms the length of an orangutan and it’s just one of the many reasons I love him.
Backlighting (sunlight or any bright light behind you) will make you look super cool. As an example, I took this bikini photo at the Disneyland Hotel pool. I was feeling good (probably all those vodka sodas on the way to Anaheim) and decided to snap this photo. I’m a 50-year-old Mom of two and I thought it was pretty cute. Note the high angle & backlighting. Sunglasses help too!
Will you Take My Picture?
“Will you take my/our picture?” If you’re a traveler you’ve heard this sentence countless times, and maybe you’ve even asked it, I know I have.
It’s always the same… you find yourself somewhere special, and you want to preserve the moment, so you ask the nearest person to snap your photo… then you snap one for them. When you look at the picture it’s blurry, your legs are cut off, there’s nothing of interest in the background, it’s crooked, or worst of all it’s someone else’s face.
Oh no! You might never be in this faraway place again, now what? Keep asking people until you get just the right shot? Take a selfie?
This was the only family photo we got during our visit to Stonehenge, which was a dream destination of mine. I should have heeded my own advice, and asked for another photo, but my impatient children and husband weren’t in the mood…
- Don’t be afraid to give your “photographer” some photo direction. Tell them just what you want. You may never be back to this place, so don’t be shy.
- Somewhere special? Make sure you ask them to include the background. This may seem obvious, but believe me it’s not.
- Remember to stand up straight and push your glasses up.
- If you ask someone to take your photo, offer to take one for them as well.
- You’ll get the best results when you hold the camera level with or above the subjects.
- Take the photo you’d want for yourself, and do a good job!
We should have requested that our “photographer” include the Mickey Fun Wheel in our photo. Whoops!
It’s not cheating when you straighten or brighten a photo. Even professionals do some post production.
- Think outside the box: consider other angles or perspectives, Get down low, aim high, or from the side and focus on small details rather than the big picture.
- Reflections make wonderful photos and even the smallest puddle can do the trick. If using a phone hold it upside down just over the water to get the best effect.
Do photo research. Going somewhere special or new? Take cues for what and what not to do from photographers who’ve already been to your upcoming destination.
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great tips especially the simplicity tip. I need to work on that myself
Thank you! It’s a nice collection of tips from photographers with a variety of styles. I recently looked at some old photos and was laughing at how bad they were.
Such a fun article and collection of great tips! Need to test the selfies with sun / light in the back 😉 #farawayfiles
Thank you! Yes! My friends tips were a selfie game changer for me!
Some great tips here! Although I’m trying to just embrace the moment these days with my camera, rather than trying to get the ‘perfect shot’, so that my camera doesn’t take over the holiday. Easier said that done though… 😉 #farawayfiles
So important to embrace the moment, I need to do more of that, and I should have included that as an important tip, because it surely is!
Lots of lovely photos there, and great tips. I would say my photography is an addiction more than anything and probably one of the main reasons that people read my blog. I LOVE it! 🙂
I love it too! But my family doesn’t love it… then they ask me if I got any great shots. Ha ha!
This is such a useful post Hilary. I haven’t used a proper camera for years as I’m always worried I’ll lose it or I feel I haven’t space for it with all the kid gear we lug around. But now my boys are a bit older I might ditch the camera phone and use a real camera. Thanks for the inspiration! #FarawayFiles
Thank you! Phones these days take such great photos you almost don’t need a “real” camera… that said, it is so nice for the long range shots.
There are so many fantastic tips here, Hilary. It’s a really good idea to ask different people for their tips as everyone has different styles and obsessions when they photograph. I’m going to try those selfie tips as I’ve never yet taken one I’d show anyone (!). This is the sort of post I can see myself coming back to again and again. Thank you so much for including me in it.
Thank you, I’m pleased with how it turned out and so many great tips! Of course you’re included I love your perspective!
Thank you so much Xx
I forgot to say I’ll look forward to seeing your selfies!
Great tips Hilary, particularly when you’re giving ‘photo direction’ to others. You’re right about taking the photo ‘you’d want for yourself’.
Including all of Mickey would probably enhanced the shot, but, a lovely family photo nonetheless. #farawayfiles
Thank you! One of those times I should have given some direction, but I was pleased with how the family shot came out nonetheless!
Great post! All helpful info. I laughed along with Clare — I’ve jumped over rock formations completely heedless of my own safety but very aware of keeping my camera safe. I’ve told my husband to save the camera if I fall in a lake. I always wish I had taken more photos!
I’m always worried about my camera, and will hardly let anyone else hold it… I always need to take one more shot, spend way too much time editing and sorting and then wish I’d take just a few more from different angles.
Such a lovely posts with great tips. I loved the collection of photos here.This post also shows so much of love to fellow bloggers. Loved the post, thank you so much for sharing this post and for the wonderful tips. #farwayfiles
Thank you so much. It was a fun post to put together. I do love our blogging community and have learned so much from being a part of it. Glad you found some fun tips!
Thanks for including me in this useful list of tips Hilary. Apart from the selfie guide which I really need to work on, I think patience is one of the most important aspects of photography that I struggle with. I’ve read this a few times now and it’s given me a lot of things to consider and work on for future snaps
Thank you for your contribution! I’m so glad you found some useful tips. I was looking back at some old photos and can see that I’ve learned SO much in the past few years. Patience is definitely one I still need to work on, and timing. I seem to alway be in places at the wrong time. Selfies can be tough, but are also fun and feel a bit more personal, which I think is a nice thing. I appreciate seeing photos, but also do love to see the face behind the lens.
I certainly aspire to take better photos, thanks for the tips. On a recent trip to Antelope Canyon in Arizona our guide showed us how to take pictures using the the filter, rather than editing afterwards. Made such a great difference!
Ah, yes, we used a filter during our visit to Antelope Canyon as well. It really brought out the red tones in the rocks. It worked well for that location, but I admit I still prefer post production in most instances. Wasn’t that a beautiful destination. It was a dream of mine to visit…
Great tips! Photography is something that I’m trying to work on. Although, with three little kids, it’s kind of on the back burner right now. My method is to just take hundreds of pictures and pray that some turn out. #farawayfiles
That’s not exactly a bad method, especially with three kids in tow… Lately I’ve been leaving the kids with their dad and taking a few hours to myself for photography or shopping or both!
I do my best to use Katy’s ‘patience’ method. A lot of the time it works, and people notice you waiting to get a photo, which is nice. Other times, you’ve got to be a little more ‘front and centre’ to get your snap and then scurry out of the way. #FarawayFiles
I use the patience method when I can, but often it’s my kids and husband who aren’t patient. Then I’m forced to be more of a scurry out of the way type. Sometimes waiting in a line for the shot feels a bit contrived, but I really want the photo…
I’m no expert and can certainly benefit from all these tips, thank you! Hmm patience might be the hardest tip for me, hubby’s been trying to teach me this for years hehe
Yes, patience isn’t my strong suit either, but I’m working on it! Glad you found some fun and useful tips!
Great tips here! I also remind people – watch the horizon line! You can have an amazing image and great composition, beautiful lighting etc but it can be ruined easily with a wonky horizon line! It’s my pet hate in travel photos. It’s easy to get it right in camera, and even easier to adjust it post processing or on your mobile phone. Unless it’s deliberately angled of course. Just something my eye always gets drawn to! #farawayfiles
I agree! I might need to put together a second tips post, just so I can include this one!
Ladies What Travel (@LadiesWTravel)
Cool tips – patience is something I definitely need more of lol! #FarawayFiles
Thanks! Don’t we all?! 😘
Great tips Hilary!
It is very great tips for me!
I’m a beginner travel photographer so your article is very helpful for me.
Still one thing I’m wondering is that tripod is a must gear for taking photos of view?
I’m not sure about it.
I’ve just searched and found this review.
If the answer is yes or it should to be,
Could you please suggest which one is suitable for an amateur?
Thank you in advance.
Depends on how much luggage you want to carry. Night photos require a tripod more than day. You might ask at your local camera shop for recommendations based on your travel and photo style.
I always had a tough time clicking a pic with the Sun in the background but thanks to your tips, next time i take a similar pic, i will make sure to follow your tips about the positioning and obstructing the sun a little bit to get that flare effect.
I’m so glad you’ve found a useful tip! Hope you have a chance to use it soon!
Diary Of A 5ft10 Girl
Oooo so many of these things I didn’t think of! Great tips and so many of them 😊
Thank you! Glad you found some useful advice!
great tips! thanks, hilary!